Stupid Is As Stupid Does

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I hate it when my actions exceed the threshold of stupidity.

Shut up… it’s not a daily, hourly, or every minute of my life occurrence.

One of the necessities of riding a bicycle, especially when riding off road, is being prepared for a flat tire.  There are some who avoid that unpleasant experience with tubeless tires, but I am not a tubeless guy (I like my tube) so I still need to carry a spare tube, patch kit, and CO2 inflator with me when I ride.  When riding my mountain bike, I have all I need stashed in plastic bags, tucked inside my hydration pack.. right next to the baggie of folded toilet paper.

Sunday morning, I decided to venture to the trails for a BCD (butt crack of dawn) ride.  It was going to be a sweltering, humid day, thus necessitating an early ride while it was still relatively cool.  As I unloaded my bike at the trailhead, the birds chirped merrily around me, greeting me in my revelry.  This was going to be a great ride, I just knew it.  True to expectations, my body felt fantastic as I zipped up the first trail, strong and good-for-me fast.  My warm up always takes me from the front of the park to the back, roughly a mile to a water crossing that leads to a nice, challenging loop of trails.  I got to the water crossing FAST.

The water crossing was a little deep.  Hikers have been damming it up, probably so they don’t get their dainty little feet damp as they cross.  Mountain bikers, who build and maintain the trails in the park, have been removing the dams.  Back and forth, build and tear down.  It has been a dam war.  When I came to the top of the drop into the water crossing, I noticed that the hikers had built yet another little dam.  Confident that the water wasn’t too deep, I swooped down the trail and into the water, my elbow wet as the water splashed around my bicycle.

*Fssssssshhhhhht fssssssshhhhhttttttt fsssssshhhhtttt*

Oh ssssssshhhhhtttttt.  A front flat.  The hikers must have been fighting back, booby trapped the crossing.  No worries, it was a front tire flat and I had my kit with me.  I removed the wheel, whipped the tube out of the tire, took out the spare tube, replaced it, inflated the tire with CO2.

*Fsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhttttttttttttttttttttttttt*

Crud.  I thought I had inspected the tire for the cause of the puncture.  I was out of luck since I only had one CO2 cartridge and one spare tube.  I replaced the wheel, carried my bike the mile or so back to my car.  Shucks.  The birds all pooped on me as I got back to my car, blew raspberries as they flew away.

Sunday afternoon, at home, I decided to fix the flat tire.  As I pulled the punctured tube out of the tire, a thought struck me.

Is it possible that I had put the same tube, the punctured tube, back in the tire that morning?

Intrigued, I pulled the tube I had put back in my hydration pack.  It looked new and unused.

I now have a large hand print on my forehead.

 

 

Hesitation

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I tried not to hesitate, but that’s the point.

Last Friday, I ventured a few hours south to Brown County State Park, Indiana.  My goal for the past few summers has been to soothe my soul with sweet single track trails, a goal I haven’t really been able to attain yet.. but I am getting there.  Life keeps getting in the way, not always a bad thing.  So I decided that I was going to make a solo trek, a semi spontaneous trip with little planning except to load my bike on the back of my car, with a change of clothes and nutrition for the ride.

It feels a bit unnatural to be doing things on my own right now, even though that has been the case for some time now.  Now I have that separated, living in divorce limbo cloud hanging constantly over me, so that gives me that disjointed feel.  It doesn’t help when people look at me like a broken toy when they find out that status.  I hate it.  I hate the waiting, the real desire to move on with my life.  That even includes wanting a companion, something that really isn’t right for me to do until I am a divorced, recovered from said divorce, man.

All of the above necessitates keeping active, not sitting around and letting depression take over.  Thus the bike trip.  As much as I like to ride Brown County, I almost had to force myself out the door.

The previous Wednesday pretty much forced me out the door.  In one afternoon, I found out that my company may not be able to pay me at the end of the month, I need a root canal, I owe an additional $6813 federal tax from 2016, and my homeowners association is requiring me to buy a $855 window for my condo.  All of that hit in about a two hour time period.  I looked at what I have socked away from the sale of the house, carefully planned in preparation of the coming divorce storm, and realized that there likely will be nothing left of that money come the end of August.

I will make it, I know.  I keep telling myself that God will provide.  The storm may be heavy for a while, but I won’t sink.

Geez… what a depressing blog!  The ride was great.  Just what the doctor ordered, even though it kicked my butt.  The time alone was therapeutic.  The quiet and change of scenery, heck the scenery alone was calming.  At one point in the ride, a mountain bike skills instructor told her three students to watch me as I cleared a large log obstacle on the trail, clapping for me as I passed by them, beaming with pride.

July 13th is a status hearing.  Ummmm… I wonder how much the lawyer is going to charge for that…… lol

Poo-ten Place

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One of the essential items that made the move from the house to the new condo was something that any man would be lost without.  Worried that someone else would grab it, I snatched it up and made sure it was stashed in a safe place for the move.

Fake poo.20170604_163239

And here it sits.  Now I can pretend that I have a pet dog.

It goes with the décor.

OK, that might not be accurate at all.  My place doesn’t even smell like poo.  It smelled like primer and paint for a while, but even those scents are gone.  Even the nicotine stench is mostly gone, a bit remaining in the walk in closet, the only room in the condo that did not get fresh coating.  Right now, my bachelor pad smells like cupcakes, the vanilla cupcake candle providing the illusion that I have been baking.

The décor in the place is starting to round out slowly, thanks to the generous gift of a red framed Farmall tractor puzzle that my father lovingly assembled for me (he made the frame, too), as well as the pictures that my precious daughter framed for me.  She also gave me a nifty old bicycle thingy.

Yesterday, I brought the dining room table and chairs up from my garage.  I put the legs on the table this afternoon, set the chairs around it.  There are floor to ceiling mirrors on one wall of the dining room, so it’s good that there is furniture in that room now.  Up to today, “friends” were suggesting that I put strobe lights and a stripper pole in the dining room.  After all, it’s every single guy’s dream, right?

Adjusting to sleeping in the master bedroom has been a bit of a trick.   Last weekend, I moved from the second bedroom, the room I moved into first, to the master.  The master is large, with two large windows that face the courtyard entrance to my condo unit, facing east.  When I go to bed, the courtyard light becomes my night light.  Used to total darkness when I sleep (no snide comments, please), that required some adjustment to get the blinds set just right.  I still sleep great.  In the morning, my room is lit by morning light as soon as the sun begins to peak the horizon, thus serving as a very early morning wake up call.  I am one whose body clock rarely allows me to stay awake late and which also will not allow me to go back to sleep once I am awake in the morning.  Right now, due to the the invasion of friendly sun, I am awake at 5:30 AM.

Getting there.  Slowly, I am getting things unpacked and in place.  The all important fake poo is out and ready to greet visitors.. so I guess I am set!

Proud

Today was a proud day.

My son graduated from high school — my first reason to be proud.

My son met my parents, Miriam (his mother), and his aunt and uncle for lunch.  Not only was he engaged, he was thankful for the generous gifts from my parents.  He spent time and didn’t rush away — another reason to be proud.

Honestly, the events of the day could have gone a different direction.  After all, Nate could have reacted to the separation of his parents, expressed his bitterness.  This was his day, his graduation day, and his parents sat apart from each other.  We got together after the ceremony, planned lunch together.  But Nate showed up, posed for pictures with us, enjoyed himself.  My parents were pleasantly surprised, even impressed, as was I.

I’ll take it.  These days I don’t get to see him often.  There is a high possibility that is why he showed up, sat and talked with me, seemed to enjoy the time together.  And, after all, it was his day.

Yesterday, I finished the majority of the painting in my condominium.  There is a little work left, but the majority is done.  May 6th, when the condo became my own, there was a lot of work to do, mainly due to the chain smoking habits of the person that I bought the condo from.  My dad came up to help me move in at the end of March, commented on the smoke stench then.  It’s gone, but it took a lot of work to make that happen.  On top of that, this place looks real nice and my parents were impressed.  The colors that I chose are subtle and warm, and once I moved my bed into the master bedroom, it was real obvious that the colors were the right choice.  Yes, I am proud.

I will take days like today.  Proud is good!

Three’s Company

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Apparently, my only toilet option after 10 PM from now on will be to pee off of my balcony.  Either that or pee/poo in a bucket.  Dishes in the sink?  Save them for the morning.  Out of clean underwear?  Commando if I don’t remember to stick them in the clothes washer before 9.  While you’re at it, Stevie, make sure the water softener isn’t set to cycle in the middle of the night.

Thanks to a downstairs neighbor intent on complaining about each and every noise or crime that goes on above her head, I have been sufficiently welcomed to my new neighborhood.  23 years of living in a house, situated in a very laid back neighborhood with neighbors who could care less about what I did, had me used to the benefits of living with some space in between.  I forget what it’s like to live in very close proximity to other people, how some people who live in apartments or condominiums itch to exercise their right to gripe.  It took my downstairs neighbor less than a week to report me to the homeowner’s association.

Pray tell, Steve, what horrific acts are you guilty of committing?  My first paragraph alludes to most of her whining — I wash dishes and clothes after 8, sometimes 9 o’clock at night.  Essentially, she doesn’t like the sound of running water.  While she was at it, she threw in a jab at my grill dripping grease on her patio (an impossibility, by the way).

Wait, the grill grease complaint was made during her SECOND attempt to incriminate me via the homeowner’s association.  The first complaints about the water use were made within the first few days after I moved in.

I earned a little bit of the second complaint, by the way, not because I was dripping grease but because I got tired of the woman yelling every night (no exaggeration necessary) from her patio every night, usually around 9 PM or so, usually directed at my temporary roomie (gone now), mostly unintelligible since the rant was screamed in a very thick Polish accent —

MARGE LAUBER!  YOU MUST STOP THAT!  YOU USE WATER!!!  YOU ARE BAD PERSON!!!  I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH NOISE!! (blah blah blah blah)

I knew about the first complaints after speaking with the property manager shortly after closing on my condo, who I called to find out how to pay association dues.  Pam, the manager, informed me that my adorable neighbor had already complained twice about me.  She also told me not to worry — my cranky cohabitant has complained about every occupant of my condo.  Pam apologized, laughed a little about it with me, said welcome to condo life (heh heh heh heh).

With that in mind, on a Thursday night, after listening to my neighbor moan every night that week, I decided it was time for it to stop.  It was 8:30 PM, I washed a few dishes, and she began her nightly rant.  Instead of merely listening to her until she lost breath and stopped, this time I stepped out on the deck to ask her to stop.

Not the best thing to do, although one would think that the best resolution would be to talk about it, hash things out and reach a compromise.

She spit words that sounded like ‘fix’, ‘police’, and I think maybe ‘pierogi’ was thrown in there.  There was no negotiation.  I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  Finely, I yelled back at her, told her that she has no gripe when she is complaining about normal life activity.  If she wanted to complain more, then she should keep complaining to the homeowner’s association and not to me, since I knew she had already complained.  She stomped back under the deck to her patio.

I received a call from Pam the next day.

OK, tell me what happened last night.

I gave her the quick story.  There was a sigh on the other end of the conversation.  Another apology.  I told her that from now on I would not engage the tenacious tenant, would simply ignore her.

Where are you from?  I love your voice.  Central Illinois?  I have heard that twang before.

Uh oh.  Pam is a divorcee.  The conversation attempted to get much friendlier.  Attempted, I must emphasize.

Condo life is still not bad, even with an overly sensitive whiner underfoot.  It is just going to take some adjustment, including my learning how to be kind and try to watch when I use water at night, etc….

Had I not talked to Pam yesterday, kindness would be more on my mind.  I had to call Pam because I still have not received the payment book or instructions on how to pay my monthly assessment.  In the course of the conversation, Pam leaked that my favorite friendly neighbor had attended the homeowner’s association meeting last Wednesday night, complained that my water softener was cycling in the middle of the night.

Ummm.. that’s what it’s supposed to do.  And it’s been doing that since it’s installation in 2009, I reckon.  Pam agreed.  But she also said that the homeowner’s association board has instructed me to not use the water in my unit after 10 PM.

I know they can’t do that.  Pam, the association rules don’t specify a time.  Legally, they can’t.  I had already used to trusty internet to confirm that information.  There is a lot out there about this blog’s topic.  She agreed.  Just be careful, she advised.

Then she asked me what my neighbor was installing under my deck.  An ILLEGAL awning, perhaps?  I would neither confirm or deny.

Until Mister Furley appears at my front door….

Funky

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Argh.. the all too familiar grit of my teeth grinding in frustration.  The afternoon had concluded with joy stealing challenge, a tax related bump and an email from a numbskull salesman (who almost always rubs me wrong) threatened to fill my psyche with bitter poison.  Thankfully, my mountain bike waited for me along with my car in the parking lot, a short drive to the trails on a picture perfect evening promising to eliminate my woes.  All the way there, the events of the afternoon worked on me.  I parked my car at the trailhead, aware of the frown decorating my face.

Hey guys, turn your heads for a minute.  I don’t want to expose myself while I change into my shorts.

The kids who had parked next to me laughed and promised not to be offended.  Quickly, I stepped out of my shorts and slipped on the padded undershorts, pulled the ‘stylish’ mountain bike shorts over them.

I could already feel the angst beginning to melt away.

Adding to the ambience, the familiar rust color of my friend Jeremy’s Honda Element rolled past as I unlocked my bike and pulled it off of my hitch rack.  Even better, Jeremy parked nearby and his wonderful wife, Monica, emerged from the vehicle and headed in my direction, a warm smile for me as she pulled me in for a hug.  Jeremy is great, even better when Monica is with him.  She treats me like I am someone special, always treats me that way, treats her husband even more so, something that has endeared them both to me.  In a season of my life where I don’t seem to see enough relationships like that, I soak up the happy spirit I get from the both of them together whenever they are around.

I joined Jeremy for a fast ride, shortened when we went back to the parking lot after four miles to lube my chain, only to be waylaid by Monica and their friend, Carrie, with the temptation of beer.  Beer won over riding, the evening weather so perfect that anything was OK.

And it was just what I needed.  It was obvious to me as I drove home.  I had gone from teeth gritting to singing loudly to whatever song was on the radio.

I saw Miriam in the grocery store when I stopped to pick up some chicken to cook for dinner.  It didn’t matter.  Nothing was going to return me to the funk.

Bikes.  Friends.  Just what the doctor ordered.

What’s For Dinner?

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Ever had that disjointed feeling, a gnawing nag where something just isn’t quite in place, a constant reminder to be patient because all will be back to normal soon?

I should have kept that question a little more simple and shorter.  Screw it.  It covers more bases the way it is written.

How about that feeling that someone is always watching you?  It’s real if you have ever had pets and/or children.

I have a hawk.20170415_172104

Pretty freaking cool, eh?  Good thing that I don’t have pets or small children right now.  That hawk is big enough to carry off a small terrier.  Since I moved into my condo at the end of March, I have seen the hawk several times in the big trees in front of my deck, even witnessed it swoop by before soaring to its perch close by.  But this time mister hawk decided to pay me a personal visit, close up.  I was sitting outside on the deck, already one of my favorite places, and suddenly I was face to face with this daunting beauty.  He sat on the railing in front of me for a good two minutes, curious as I talked to him.  I am certain that he totally expected me to understand what he was saying to me.

Listen, buddy, welcome to the neighborhood.  Understand a few things and we will get along.

There likely are a few hawk rules that I will need to abide by.

Once I get settled in, I will read the little rule book that he dropped off.

As of Friday, I am once again a homeowner.  That’s right, I successfully negotiated the mortgage maze.  There really wasn’t much to negotiate since the only debt I have is a car payment.  Plus, my portion of the equity from the sale of the house was waiting to finance the new mortgage.  Even with that, I spent the past few weeks in a temporary limbo,  sure yet unsure that I would be living in my condo.  When my house sold, I moved into the second bedroom of the condo while waiting for my mortgage to be approved, as well as waiting for my temporary roommate’s mortgage to be approved.

I should say that I am squeezed into the second bedroom.  I had to be creative in order to make two beds, two dressers, a large screen TV, a head board, fit into one bedroom.  One might say that I am the prince and the pea right now, my mattress stacked on top of a bed frame, box spring, and the mattress from the other bed.  Thankfully, my other box spring is a split, two piece design, so it is stacked easily in a corner of the room.

Up to now the place hasn’t quite felt like my home.  It felt temporary, like it wasn’t real.  My roomie has been diligently packing her things, boxes all over the place, my things slowly replacing her the items that she packs away.

And then I got writer’s cramp.  That happens when you sign all the closing documents.

I bought a gas grill yesterday, assembled it in it’s stainless steel glory out on MY deck.  All of a sudden, I feel the solid sureness return.  I am home, my peaceful place.  Mine.

Ahhhhhhhhh!

One Week Out

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My friends who have gone through separation and divorce all have tried to describe to me what the experience was going to be like.  Each really was different, each had their own spin, their relationship with their ex unique.  I am grateful to have friends who are able to share with me, friends who actually follow up to make sure that I am OK and doing all right.  After a week, the reality is starting to sink in, the challenges starting to show themselves.  For that matter, so are the gains.

I like living on my own.  I like the sudden solitude, softened by the fact that an old friend still lives in the condo that I am buying from her.  We should close on the condo soon, as soon as my mortgage goes through, and she should be closing on the house she bought by May 5th.  That’s almost unbelievable and I often feel like this whole thing is just a strange dream.  It’s not.  It’s real.

One realization struck me yesterday morning — I sleep completely through the night now.  No longer do I have two night owls disturbing my sleep.  Nate takes midnight showers, complete with music to accompany the shower.  No longer do I have to experience that.

I do miss my son.  However, I think the time away from each other has already been good for the both of us.  We communicate now and with a purpose.  He treats me with more respect, maybe because he knows that his time with me will be short.  This week we searched for cars together, his windfall from the separation and his high school graduation present.  Last night we settled on a very practical car for him, a 2009 Ford Focus SEL station wagon, sold to us by the father of one of his friends at wholesale price.  The guy is selling it to us at a very, very good price and is making sure it is in prime shape, going as far as to deliver it to Nate this Monday evening.

Nate also high fived me after he and his doubles partner, Joe, won their third match at a tennis tournament this morning.  They are 5-0 so far in the early part of the high school tennis season.  He and Joe were even interviewed by the local newspaper after their first meet last Tuesday.  The high five might not mean much to some, but it’s something for me.  Nate rarely acknowledges me after he plays.

Miriam and Nate are living with her sister.  She decided not to buy her condo, will instead be renting.  I don’t know how to feel about that.  Rent is a great deal more than buying around here.

I gave the divorce petition to Miriam on Tuesday night.  That was one of those moments where I just did what needed to be done.  It wasn’t pleasant.  Talk about real.  It was very real.  She tossed the envelope back at me, said she wouldn’t sign it unless I gave her $5000 for a lawyer.  Even though she knew it was coming, knew that money is going to be tight for her, it obviously was a shock.  I feel pity for her, but it’s mixed with a strong I-told-you-so.  A lot of what is happening to her, she helped create, even if you only consider the relational side.  She also created debt for herself that needs to be resolved, contrary to advice that I gave to her when I found out that she was maxing out a credit card that she had taken in her own name.

I am writing this blog outside, on the deck of the condo that will soon enough be mine, a very pleasant place, a blessing.  Much more will be shared from this place.

 

April Fool?

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The thought just struck me, a miniature epiphany brought on when I realized that today is usually one of my favorite days of the year.  It’s April Fool’s day, after all, and coincidentally my first full day of “freedom”.  From now on, the meaning of April 1 will no longer be associated with a prank, unless this whole thing happening in my life really is some cruel and massive joke.  Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and discover that it really has been that.

One problem — I will wake up tomorrow in my own bed, but that bed is not in my house.  It’s in someone else’s house, a house that will be mine in a few weeks, nonetheless it’s not the room I have known for some 23 years.  What a strange, almost other worldly feeling this is.

Yesterday, after 23 years, I said good bye to my cozy little two story house.  The past few days, weeks really, have been a whirlwind of seemingly constant work getting the house ready for someone else to live in, fretting over their requests to have this or that fixed/remedied/improved.  Wednesday night, while I was beginning the last stages of packing my things for the move, I received a text from my lawyer, relaying a request from the buyers to verify that the breaker box had been relabeled and a dedicated circuit had been added for the microwave range.  I wasn’t happy, not quite steaming mad, but upset enough that I could taste the sour mood the text had helped create.  I chewed on it, almost decided to tell the buyers to suck pond water, then realized that it really was an easy thing to dispute.  I sent the list for the breaker box that had been created when an electrician inspected the box, pointing out that breaker two was dedicated to the microwave range and stove.  Done.  Finished.  Resolved.

I rented a UHaul truck Thursday evening, greeted my friends Jeremy and Steve as they arrived to help with the move, started in on getting the furniture out of the house.  My dad and youngest brother arrived after a while, dug in and helped.  Never have I been so encouraged to have good friends, thankful more than I could express for their kindness.  It wasn’t just the work they offered, it was their support and understanding, empathy as we worked.  Over the years, I have helped countless people move, never once thinking of what that service meant to those receiving it.  Now I know.  Had they not been there, not only would the huge task been next to impossible to finish, I think the weight of the day may have been enormous to bear.  Instead, while I carried a lot of physical weight that night, the burden was a whole lot lighter.

Miriam left the house shortly after my friends arrived and before my dad arrived.  I am pretty sure that she didn’t want to face him.  If there was any doubt, she called me later on in the evening and asked me to tell her when everyone was gone, then texted me an hour later to confirm.  Sad.  I wished she would have wanted to try to reconcile.  I realize that it was an emotional time any way, but it may have been a good time to try.  Instead, she stayed away, giving up four hours that she should have been using to pack and clean, something she also was woefully behind on.  I stayed up until one in the morning, as much I could take, helped Miriam and her sister as they packed her stuff.  Cleaned as rooms were vacated.

I slept on an air mattress in the near empty house Thursday night.  Miriam worked until four in the morning, then went and slept at her sister’s house.   I didn’t see Nate.  He went to the Bulls game with friends, went straight to his aunt’s house.  I haven’t seen him since Wednesday night, have only talked to him for a few seconds on the phone since then.  That too is sad.  He called while the soon to be owners of our house were doing their final walk through of our house at 2 PM Friday, asked if he could come over and say goodbye to the house.. but Miriam had to tell him that it was too late.

We worked feverishly Friday morning getting everything out of the house, cleaning, throwing out the garbage.  I had put our old couch, overstuffed chair, and ottoman out at the curb for the garbage men to pick up next week.  Of course, when I was out to get garbage pickup stickers to put on the furniture for pickup, as well as the ten bags of garbage also out at the curb, a city code officer stopped by and left a warning ticket about the stuff being out at the curb.  If the garbage and furniture didn’t have stickers and wasn’t picked up by Monday, a $75 ticket would be issued!  I called the city, explained that we were moving and that stickers had been purchased ($75 worth, ironically).  They were kind, told me that everything was OK.

We were finishing the packing as the buyers pulled up for their walk through inspection.  Their realtor asked us if we were finished.  I said that we had everything out and the house was ready.  As Miriam drove off and her sister and I finished putting the last few things in her car, the buyers walked into the house with their realtor.

I paused in the driveway, stood next to my car, willed myself to take one last look at my house.  MY house.  MY FREAKING HOUSE.  I turned looked at my house, unprepared for the emotion that slammed me in the face.

This was no longer my house.  Someone else would be making new memories there.  I hoped there were still some left.  This was the place where my children were born and raised.  Heck, it was where they were made.  A lot of me was in that little structure.  With all the change, it felt like I was leaving a lot of me there.  I stood there, unable to move, no longer able to fight the tears that began streaming down in my face, sobbing as my sister in law came over and held me in a tight hug, told me that it would be all right, that I would always be welcome in her home and that she still loved me like a brother.

For weeks, I let the tasks keep me from realizing the full impact of what was about to happen.  In one quick instance, with one quick glance at the house that represented so much of what my life had been, my life changed.

Now I live somewhere else.  With someone that I knew very well some 26 years ago.  She already has proved that our friendship has been remembered, a great comfort to me these past 24 hours.  We shared coffee and breakfast this morning, talked a lot, went about the tasks of the day, then enjoyed a quiet time together out on the deck of what will be my condo soon.  It’s peaceful, serene, with woods behind, birds and animals surrounding.  At one point while we were out there, a large hawk flew over us and perched on the railing of the deck of the condo next door.  I am relaxed, my old friend and the friends I have spent time with the past few nights a true gift from God.  I feel blessed.  I feel like God is telling me that he is OK with me, that I can move on.

And I have moved.  Happy April Fool’s day, a day that no longer will be associated with fools any more, at least to me.  I am free.